Last weekend, Maya asked if she could miss school on her birthday. My first reaction was, No, go to school. Then I thought about it and realized, who cares if she misses a day of school to celebrate her birthday? I mean, if a teacher is absent, they just show a movie in class, so if they can waste her time (once in awhile…not ragging on her school…it’s a good school, with very dedicated teachers), then so can I. Anyway, it seemed like SUCH a good idea, that Ted and I decided to take the day off as well. So we took a vacation day from work, and went into San Francisco for the day. What a good idea that was!
We started out with lunch at a sentimental favorite of Ted’s. He remembers going to Alioto’s (on the wharf) with his father, and really liking their crab spaghetti. Turns out that a Tuesday at 11:30 in March is a great time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. When we lived in the City, we pretty much avoided the Wharf like a plague. Far too touristy, far too crowded, everything mediocre and over priced. But on the first really gorgeous day of spring, playing hooky from work and school, it’s actually a pretty nice place to be. The restaurant doesn’t have crab spaghetti anymore, but they did have a ‘fruits de mer’ pasta that filled in just fine for him. Maya and I had a big pancake breakfast, so we weren’t as hungry. I opted for a crab cake appetizer, which was lovely and just the right amount of food. The sauce was really good, as was the sourdough bread, so I pretty much licked the platter clean. Maya had the very SF dish, clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Mmmm. San Francisco sourdough is the best, bar none.
Anyway, after lunch, we walked over to Pier 33 and boarded a ferry to Alcatraz. I’ve lived in California for most of my life, spent several years as a concierge in San Francisco, and I had never been before. Again, too touristy for the natives. But I found that if I thought of it as California history, instead of a tourist attraction, it didn’t feel so cheesy. And did I mention that it was a GORGEOUS day? San Francisco is such a beautiful city, and on a bright sunny day following week after week of gray rain and clouds, it sparkles like a jewel from the vantage point of a ferry boat. The Rock itself was a mixture of interesting history, a sad reflection of what cruelty humans are capable of, and again, beautiful views. I learned a few things, such as that the lighthouse on Alcatraz island was the first on the west coast, constructed in 1854, at the height of the gold rush and California’s boom period. It later became a military fortification, then a military prison, then the Federal prison for which it became famous. It was retired in 1963, and has operated since then as a national park.
Ted has been before, probably most recently in the late 80s, and back then you were guided through the prison by a park ranger. Nowadays they start you off with a lecture about the decaying buildings and the importance of staying out of areas that are sectioned off (and yeah, you could fall to your death if you’re being stupid), then you go inside and watch a brief Discovery Channel video about the history of the U.S. occupation of the island. Then you pick up some headphones and begin an audio tour, narrated by former guards and prisoners. It’s depressing to see what people can be reduced to, life in a tiny cage like that. But while it made me sad to think of life on The Rock, the beauty of the outside surroundings, and the fact that I wasn’t cooped up at work made it much more palatable.
Overall, it was a truly lovely day. And kind of like a field trip more than skipping class. I think we should maybe play hooky for Ted’s birthday next month. Hmmmm.
(famous black cat image, which I found here)
I’m sorry, little blog, for neglecting you so. It’s not that I don’t care about you, it’s just that I don’t care about you as much as I used to. Harsh? Indeed. And I’ve noticed that many of my friends’ blogs are similarly neglected. Not sure what to do about it, but one option might be to, perhaps, come visit once in awhile, write here, and make more of an effort to go visit my blog friends. Sigh. So, aside from pancakes I made weeks ago, what’s new around here? Let’s see…
Today is St. Nicholas Day. St. Nicholas was known for (amongst other things) secret gift giving, thus being the predecessor of our Santa Claus. And no, he didn’t live at the North Pole. He lived in what is now Turkey. We celebrate by having some Stollen (meant to represent the Baby Jesus, of all things), though we get the more Dutch version, filled with almond paste. Also, dried fruit. Ted says that dried fruit is a work of the devil, and I can’t imagine that Baby Jesus wants anything to do with Satan, can you? We’ll see what happens there. I wonder what Baby Jesus might think of the Dutch celebration, with Sinterklaus being followed around by his slaves, who might take naughty children away to Spain.
My birthday is at the end of this month, on New Year’s Eve. Cherry and I went out for an early celebration on Saturday. She took me to the best crab restaurant around, Thanh Long, which makes an amazing roast dungeness crab, and some mean garlic noodles. It’s a special treat kind of place, because the crab is quite expensive, and also because there’s enough butter and oil in the crab to clog up your arteries for good, and that’s without the garlic noodles, which come in a close second. Finish it off with a deep fried banana with rich vanilla ice cream, and yeah, you might want to have salad for a few days after that. Not that I’m going to. We’re having steak tonight, ala Ina Garten, with Provencal butter. YUM.
My friend Aimee over at Greeblemonkey has got me hooked on Florence + The Machine, specifically their song “The Dog Days are Over”. One inexpensive and hopefully thoughtful gift I like to give my friends for Christmas is a ‘mix tape’ type CD, and this is definitely going to be included. I’m wondering about the rest of the album. Anyone know if it’s good? Any other songs you’re into right now that I might want to consider including?
Time for a Genevieve update? She’s doing well. She has a bump on the inside of her eyelid that should be removed, but we’re very hesitant to have it done, because she’d have to go under for the procedure. And the thing is, she’s been reacting differently to medications this last year than she did in the past. A pro-biotic she was on for a bit had her totally strung out, pacing the house all night long. An antibiotic she had been on several times before with no issues suddenly had her vomiting. Her vet says she doesn’t want to put her under if we can avoid it, and we’re in agreement. So who knows how that will turn out. But she’s been enjoying the cool winter weather, and while she doesn’t want to go for long walks, once in awhile she’ll start galloping, which is never wise if you’re blind. But on the leash, we let her run a bit, and she seems to really like it.
V-Grrrl mentioned on Facebook how in love she is with SmartWool socks, and everyone who commented on her post said ‘gosh they’re expensive, but I love them so much I’m asking for them for Christmas’, so I bought some for gifts. Anyone else in love with SmartWool? Anyone tried the REI brand, and know if they’re comparable? They looked like they were the same quality of merino wool, but maybe not padded.
Last but certainly not least, today is Richard’s birthday. Wish we lived closer so we could go to dinner with him and Kathy tonight, but since I’m in California, and he’s in Alaska, it’s unlikely. Bummer. Happy Birthday, Richard…I miss you. We’re having steak in your honor. And because we like steak.
Back when my mom had her own consulting business in the mid-80s, my Grandma was her book keeper and admin assistant. My grandpa was 20 years older than my Grandma, and so he was home. For awhile, he took advantage of the local Meals on Wheels organization, of their kind volunteers, of the money donated by different organizations and the city government, though I know he paid for the meals as well. A few years later, I met my father, who it turns out was (and still is) a volunteer for Meals on Wheels. They are an amazing organization, enabling seniors to stay in their homes when they might otherwise need to go to some kind of assisted living. Think about our basic needs. Air. Water. Food. Shelter. Clothing. Medical care. Not always in that order. Air and water are mostly safe and provided for most people these days, but when you’re old and not as mobile as you used to be, getting yourself fed something more healthy than a TV dinner (as they used to be called) or a bowl of cereal can become difficult.
So when I was unemployed and found myself with an excess of time on my hands, it was easy to think of what organization to contact. My grandpa, my dad, both connected to this organization in their own way. Also, it’s a job that takes almost zero training. You go and give the organization your driving information, proof of insurance and drivers license. Someone takes you on a dry run, introduces you to the people on your route. That’s it. So I felt like if I got a job and couldn’t volunteer any more, it wouldn’t be such a hardship to the organization. So I signed up. And you know what? Once I got past the first two or three weeks of feeling lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I discovered that I really, really liked it. I found that Thursday was my favorite day of the week. I liked getting out of the house (sometimes difficult when you’re unemployed). I liked feeling needed. I liked the cheerful faces of the people on my route, who remembered my name and were always glad to see me. I found myself enjoying driving around and listening to music and spending a couple of hours in the mild California weather. So when I was rehired by my old employer, I asked if I could keep my route, if I could take a long lunch one day a week to do this thing. If it were a busy day, I would work late, and if it interfered with meetings or whatever, I would call and ask for a substitute driver. And thankfully, my boss said yes, no problem. So I continue to go, every Thursday, bringing lunch and a little conversation to the people on my route. Enjoying their company and thankful for them, for their grace and kindness.
Today is a benefit at our local Meals-On-Wheels, called Bay Area Dine Out, where select restaurants have agreed to donate a minimum of 10% of the day’s proceeds to the local Meals-on-Wheels organizations. The participating counties are: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Solano. If you’re local, please consider checking out the participating restaurants tonight, and thank them for their generosity in donating to such a wonderful cause. If you’re not local, perhaps consider finding out if your local chapter has a similar fundraiser, or maybe just send them a small donation. Any amount helps. Really.
(artwork by Amanda Dagg, found here)
Keep beckoning to me,
From behind that closed door,
The maiden, the mother, and the crone that’s grown old.
I hear your voice,
coming out of that hole.
I listen to you,
and I want some more.
I listen to you,
and I want some more.
She will always carry on.
Something is lost, something is found.
They will keep on speaking her name,
Some things changed, some stay the same.
~The Pretenders, Hymn to Her
That whole ‘circle of life’ thing is much on my mind these last few days. On Friday, I heard from my dear friend Janet that her father had died. He fought a long and courageous battle with cancer. Cancer won. Janet once told me that it didn’t seem fair that we, who both have young parents, should be going through this so soon. I agree wholeheartedly. When I first met Janet, we were going to school at the Junior College in my hometown, and she was living with her dad in a neighboring town. She seemed so worldly to me, having tested out of high school to model in San Francisco and London, after several years of ballet. She was now ready to settle down and do the school thing. I used to love to go to her house after school, watch dumb TV, and have grilled cheese sandwiches. Sometimes we’d go to our friend Katie’s house, because Katie had a pool. Janet’s dad would come home in the evening, and Janet would cook dinner. If I didn’t have to work that evening, I was always welcome to stay. She went on to Berkeley, I went on to SFState, and we vetted each others boyfriends, etc. Her father was a kind and fairly quiet man, but always very strong and opinionated, always there for his daughters. I will always remember the look of love in his eyes when he shooed me and the other bridesmaids out of the room so he could have a private word with his daughter before he walked her down the aisle. She and her sister, and her step mom, will miss him terribly. He was a good man. I’ll go and pay my respects to him on Thursday at his funeral, and be there with my friend.
The day after I heard about Janet’s father, we went to Half Moon Bay to attend a wedding for some much younger friends, Ramzi and Katrina. I think they’re 27ish, which is the age Ted and I were when we married, 17 years ago. (I’ll give you a second while you add up and figure out my age. Done? Yes, I’m 44.) It was a lovely ceremony, though I did forget to turn off my phone, which rang right in the middle. Ooops. Ramzi is this tall, kinda goofy, laid back guy. He’s so mellow, just wants to relax and have a good time. He recently graduated with his Master’s Degree, and was hired as a school counselor in a neighboring town. A wonderful job for a man with a big heart. Katrina is a bundle of energy. She could not contain her joy or her energy during the ceremony, and looked like she was about to jump out of her skin. She’s always like that. She had a big happy smile on her face, and was bouncing up and down, sort of like maybe she had to go to the bathroom. It was a wonderful wedding, and a fun reception, though seeing all those young-uns doing their mid-20s dances made me miss my own friends from that time, and how we used to go out dancing and having fun. They’re all far away now, and besides, we’re at a different stage in our lives. The idea of leaving a reception before it ended back then would have been insane. Free booze? Dancing all night? Partying with your friends? What could be better? But we didn’t drink much, enjoyed a dance or two, and then came home to sleep in our own bed.
And the babies, the most joyous part of the circle of life. Cherry had her baby 3 1/2 months ago, and she’s growing so quickly, smiling and laughing and doing all of those terribly cute things that babies do. Oddly enough, it doesn’t make me want to have another baby. Just makes me want to hold Cherry’s baby, and look at old video of when Maya was a baby, and hold her tight now when she’ll let me. Tracy is now a mom, though separated from her babies by a few thousand miles, but only for a few more weeks. She and her husband are adopting two beautiful brothers from Ethiopia, one who will be 2 at the end of September, and one who is just a few weeks old than Cherry’s baby girl. Both Cherry and Tracy have wanted to be mothers for so long now, and it didn’t come easily to either of them. I’m SO thrilled that their dreams are coming true. I love my Maya so much, I cannot imagine the hurt of wanting a baby and not being able to have one. So now that they’re both moms, and Cherry is enjoying her time home with baby before work starts again, and Tracy is getting her house and her life ready for when they bring the boys home, I feel that they are blessed.
Having these three events so close together really brings home the beauty and the pain of life. Tracy’s father died just a week before my mom. Dorothy got married within 6 weeks of that. Then our blog friend Chrissy had her baby a few months later, which was scary because she was so premature, but it all turned out well and her baby is going on 2, and is healthy and strong and independent as can be. I remember when my mom died, we had two gatherings. My cousin brought her new baby to one of them, and holding her was a balm for my broken heart. It’s hard to cry when you’re holding a laughing, healthy, beautiful baby in your arms. My sister brought her new baby to the second gathering, and again, it was somehow comforting to have him to hold. I think it’s something about them not understanding the pain you’re going through at all, they just want to be held and fed and loved, and for some reason, it makes it easier to set your own pain aside for a few minutes.
I think I’ve lost control of this post. I don’t know how to end it, or what it is that I’m really trying to say. Except that my heart goes out to all of these friends, for so many reasons. In pain, in love, and in joy.
This morning I was looking at the local paper, and I saw where a 2 year old boy had been mauled to death by 3 of the family’s 5 pit bulls. The tragedy that has hit that family has hit them hard, and I would assume they are now a family in crisis. The dogs (all 5) have been put to sleep. The grandfather, who owned the dogs, is in jail. My heart goes out to this family at such a horrific time. And I’m thankful that, at least so far, nothing that horrible has happened to me and my immediate family. Which got me to thinking about the different kinds of thankfulness. There is this kind, where I read about the boy who was mauled, or the woman who was raped recently about 2 or 3 blocks from here, or the woman who was hit and killed by a drunk driver last weekend, on the road that I walk several days a week. And I’m thankful that this kind of crisis has not hit us. This is the kind of thankful that makes you want to protect and defend the life you’re leading, hold your loved ones close, and shut out the ugliness of the world.
Then there is the more cheerful kind of thankfulness. Like walking this morning, when I saw a deer bound across six lanes of semi-heavy morning traffic, and make it safely to the other side. I was thankful for that, because of course I don’t want to see a deer get hit by a car or truck, and I also shudder to think of what a big deer (200 lbs?) would do to the front of a car, and certainly killing a deer on your way to work is a crappy way to start your day. Like enjoying the fact that the fog has come in enough to keep the nights bearable, and we haven’t had any horrid heat waves yet this summer. In fact, it’s the coolest summer we’ve had in several decades, which is mostly OK by me, because I get grumpy when it goes above 100. It’ll happen. But so far, I’m thankful for the cool weather we’ve been having. I’m thankful for my health, and that of my family. I do not take this lightly or flippantly. I know too many people who live with chronic conditions to do that. And I know that no one’s health lasts forever, so I am extra thankful to have mine now. I’m thankful for the beauty that is the world, for wonderful paintings, interesting music, movies, trees, birds, my dog. This is the kind of thankful that makes you want to smile at the beauty of the world because you’re feeling good, and you want to share that.
So there are two kinds of thankful here…thankful for what is, and thankful for what isn’t. Thankful for what we share, and thankful that some of the misfortune of others has not been shared upon us. Thankful for the gifts we have been given, and for that which has not been taken away.
I don’t know…I feel like I’m skirting the edge of something that I want to say. I wish there were only the good to be thankful for, and not the lack of bad in one’s own life, which certainly means that someone else is having a hard time of it.
For several years after we first married, I would find my thoughts drifting back to July of 1993…”last year right now, we were driving to the pier to pick up the discounted wine for our wedding reception…” or “2 years ago now we were on the plane to London to start our honeymoon…” That sort of thing. Well, as the years pass, I find my thoughts going back to specific days less and less, but for some reason today I was thinking about 17 years ago, when we took the train from Amsterdam to Paris, for the last part of our Honeymoon.
We bought coach tickets, but decided while underway that we would prefer to travel first class, which you can do by paying the difference while on the train. The only bummer is that you have to pay the difference each time you enter a country. So we had to pay the difference first in Holland, then when we passed into Belgium, then again when we passed the border into France. Which was fine with us, but there was another couple in our cabin, and one of them wanted us to get the upgrade for free, because we were on our honeymoon. It was a gay couple, probably as old then as we are now (aka, they looked old), and one of them was kind of grumpy and probably had hoped for peace and quiet the whole trip, so he could read his Dick Francis mystery in peace. The other one was charmed that we were on our honeymoon, and seemed happy to have someone to chat with during the journey, since his partner had his nose in his book the whole way. So the happy one kept trying to get the various conductors to give us the upgrade for free. “But…they’re on their Honeymoon“, he’d smile…no one cared, and we paid full price. Ah well. It was a lovely way to travel, and we enjoyed ourselves. Though first class meant a less crowded car to ride in, not anything fancy like tablecloths or champagne or anything like that.
We arrived in Paris at Gare du Nord, on the night before Bastille Day. It seems that Bastille Day in France (in Paris at least) is celebrated on both the 13th and 14th, so we arrived to people setting off firecrackers, which sounded a lot like gunshots to me. Because, you know, I’ve never heard a real gunshot, at least not that I can remember. Just TV. So with the firecrackers and everyone speaking French and me not understanding a word of it, and the train ticket machine not working and all, I was completely overwhelmed. Not to mention that I stayed with the bags while Ted went to try to figure out the ticket situation, and some creepy guy was giving me the eye and I was starting to wonder if I might be abducted and Ted would come back to find just our bags sitting there. No worries, Ted came back, we got a cab, and found our hotel. With our room just across from a little bar, where people were drinking mightily to celebrate Bastille Day (we were just a few blocks away from the Bastille, actually), so we were kept up by the sound of partying and bottles being dropped into a dumpster. On the 14th, we slept through the parade, but did see some huge aircraft flying low over the city, which looked to my untrained eyes to be circa WWII. We spent several days in Paris, had amazing food, went to museums, walked all over the place, and really enjoyed ourselves.
All of which brings me to the soundtrack for today, The Moderns. The Moderns was a basically forgettable movie (at least, I’ve forgotten it) which takes place in 1926 Paris, which has a wonderful, romantic soundtrack. Some of it is original music by Mark Isham, and the rest is vintage music from the period. Love it. I haven’t listened to it for quite awhile, but it’s been popping up in my mind a lot these last few days, perhaps because of the time of year. The soundtrack is mostly, if not completely, in French, and always takes me back to Paris, as well as to our wedding reception, where we listened to The Moderns as our dinner background music. It’s a wonderful soundtrack, and really sets the mood for a romantic dinner. I highly recommend it.
My dear friend Cherry is having her baby today…as we speak, she’s going in to O.R. for her c-section, and I’m expecting a call and can hardly contain myself! Breath, J, breath.
OK, but of course Cherry having her baby reminded me of when I had my baby, lo these many years ago. I wanted what any new mom wants right then…my mom. So we planned for my mom to fly from Juneau, Alaska (where she was living), to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (where we were living). At this sad point, I hadn’t seen my mom in about 3 years. A few weeks after Ted and I were married in ’93, my mom moved to Alaska. The following summer, Ted and I moved to Pennsylvania. Money was tight, flights that far are expensive, blah blah blah. Anyway, the cheapest flight she could find was a red-eye, and when you fly from Juneau, you make several stops anyway…minimum of Seattle, often Anchorage and a smaller airport or two, plus the whole crossing the country thing. So when we went to pick her up at the airport, I expected her to be TIRED. (Remember when you could go to the gate to meet family and friends off of flights? We were waiting for her to appear from that little door, the portal between flight and solid ground.) What I didn’t expect was for her to look as tired as she did. Or for her to be so tired that she didn’t recognize me. As I rushed over to give her a big hug, I was horrified to realize that I was approaching the WRONG 50-something, 275 lb, redhead, who used a cane. I mean, really. How many 50-something, 275 lb, redheads, who use a cane do you expect to find on one flight? I only expected one. There were two. What a relief to realize that even though almost 3 years had passed since I had last seen her, she hadn’t changed THAT much.
Then, of course, her bright cheery face appeared from that little door, and she lit up at the sight of us, and gave us BIG hugs, and was thrilled to see me so pregnant and know that she was going to be there when her grand-daughter was born. And yes, she was tired. Maya didn’t arrive for almost a week after that, though, so she was well rested.
Maya is 14 today, so obviously this picture is an oldie but a goodie. I have been thinking about the difference between those times when she was a preschooler, and these times, getting ready for high school next year. Sometimes I miss those times, because she was so sweet and said some pretty funny things sometimes, and if only I had had a blog then….but these times are wonderful and special as well. Watching her grow from a little girl into a teen, not too long from now into a woman…it’s amazing. Seeing the things she’s interested in, that I never was. Seeing the things she doesn’t really care about, that I did. And those things that we both love…our shared interests. It’s a wonderful experience, having a child, watching them grow from a helpless infant into an independent adult. It takes a long time, a lot of work, a lot of bruises and heartbreaks. I’m so glad that the three of us are on this journey together. Thank you, Maya, for being such a wonderful kid.
Happy Birthday sweetheart. Remember, you can be whatever you want to be in this world (astronaut, cheerleader, both…). You are smart, funny, talented, enthusiastic, and you have a kind and loving heart. You’re the best daughter a mama could possibly want to have. Above all, I hope that you know that no matter what, we’ve got your back.
I know, you’ve seen this picture before. I do like it, though, and gosh, we’re so young way back then, huh? I was thinking the other day that this is our 22nd year together. Our first date was December 12, 1987. Then I realized, I’m turning 44 in a few weeks…which means, I’ve been together with Ted for longer than we were apart. More simply put, he and I have been together for over half of my life thus far. How can that be? How can I be that old? Kinda strange. But when I look in the mirror, and see that I’m not that fresh faced, wrinkle free girl anymore, I guess it’s not so shocking.
The wonderful part is that I sometimes feel like that was just yesterday. And other times, it seems like we’ve been on this long journey together, and here we are, on this path going forward…and still in love with each other, still enjoying each other’s company, still wanting to see each other, talk to each other, spend time with each other. For over half of my life now. Wow.
Little did I know, on that date in December, that this would be the man I fell in love with, lived with, married, moved across the country and home again with, had a baby with, raised a child with. The man I’m looking forward to growing old with. That this would be the man I would turn to in times of joy and sorrow, for support and celebration both. All I knew was that he was very handsome, funny, and genuinely nice. I feel so blessed to have spent this half-life together sweetheart. Thank you for loving me.
My plan for today’s blog was to make a Thursday 13, and list 13 things for which I am thankful. Family, friends, our health, having a job, good elections, etc. etc.
As so often happens, though, life got in the way. Let me tell you what happened.
Ted and I use WordPress to maintain our blogs. Ted’s really good about updating his blog to the most current version of WordPress, but often the update comes with a small hand full of problems. There will be something new that he has to tweak, and it takes time, and blah blah blah. Me? I’m more the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of person. My blog works perfectly well, I can do everything I want to do, everything’s fine, so no, I won’t make changes that might turn out to be a pain in the neck.
My lackadaisical attitude bit me in the butt on Tuesday. Seems that some asshat hackers got in and infected a ton of WordPress blogs. You guessed it, the ones that were on older versions. Sigh. So, while I was out with Maya looking for a dress and shoes for Maya to wear for Thanksgiving and a funeral on Saturday, Ted spent hours on the phone with tech support working to get my blog fixed. Then he had to go onto WordPress user boards Wednesday morning to figure out why I couldn’t log in anymore.
So, today, I am thankful to Ted and his persiverance and dedication, his willingness to spend hours trying to (and succeeding) fix my blog. Thus far, the only thing that went wrong is that the fonts didn’t line up or something, and there are weird ‘Â’ symbols throughout all of my old posts. Strange, huh? I have over a thousand posts, so I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to fix them or not.
Thank you, Ted, my personal IT guru. You’re the best husband, ever.
My plan today is to make some turkey and yams, eat, relax, have a lovely time with family, and hopefully have a nap. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
The writing prompt for this week’s Sunday Scribblings is Grateful. I’m thinking of writing of things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, so at first I thought that this might be redundant. Then I decided that instead of writing about all of the things for which I am thankful, I would write about my mom, and how grateful I am that I had the time that I had with her.
I am grateful for those early years, living in the Bay Area as a small child. My mom was working and going to school and raising two small children. Money was very tight, but she never let that be a big deal to us. We would have picnics, sometimes on campus at Berkeley, sometimes in our front yard. We had a lot of joy and laughs. She worked very hard, but never let us doubt that we were special and the center of her world.
I am grateful for the experience of living in Alaska as a child. I was very young, so I don’t have a lot of memories of our time on the Homestead. But the memories that I do have are good ones.Â I remember the sled dog team we had, playing with the dogs and having fun. I remember going berry picking in the summer…blueberries and cranberries especially. The best blueberries in the world, I think, are wild blueberries found outside of Fairbanks. Maybe the ones in Maine are that good, or Canada, but I’ve never had them, so I don’t know. I remember time spent with the Alaskan branch of our family, and lots of fun and laughter. I am grateful for the hard work my mom put in during that time (during her whole life, actually, no one could ever accuse her of not working twice as hard as anyone else). I wasn’t really aware of it at the time, but she worked at a local Montessori and she worked at KFC at the same time, since Montessori teaching doesn’t pay very well. She worked hard around the little homestead. With no running water, and having to bring in the coal for our little pot-bellied stove, it wasn’t your average household. For a single mom with two young children, it was a lot of work on the shoulders of one person.
I am grateful for the example she provided, doing whatever was necessary for Richard and I. When he was having trouble in school, she put us both in private school (on her waitress/teacher salary), so that he might learn to love school. We both went, because she didn’t want him to feel singled out. When the private school turned out to not be the best, she home schooled us. We worked on projects that were far beyond what we might have had in standard school. I still remember my geography report on Peru, studying their imports and exports, etc. When I desperately needed braces, she got them for me. With no insurance and as a single mom, this meant that none of us went to the regular dentist for the 5 years that I had braces. (Another reason I want state health care…it’s stupid for kids to go without medical/dental care, just because their 2-job-working single mom is too busy paying for the braces).
I am grateful for the responsibilities that she gave us when we were a bit older, such as cleaning house, cooking dinner for the family, shopping for our own school clothes. I did not like cleaning house, don’t get me wrong, but I never doubted that I was a contributing member of the household, and it was nice to know that I could help my hard-working mom in some way.
I am grateful that while our house was probably the worst of all our friends’ houses (we were poor, lived in a crappy rental duplex in a bad neighborhood, with mostly (all?) hand me down furniture), ours was the house that our friends wanted to come to. My mom was the one that my friends came to, to talk about their problems and dreams. And she always had time for them, to listen and be there. I kind of took that for granted growing up, but my friends have told me since how much she meant to them, how much her advice and caring helped.
I am grateful that, when I was 21, she realized the mistake she had made in not having Richard and my fathers around. I didn’t realize for a long time how difficult it was for her to reach out to them, to try to bring them back into our lives. She told me once that it was the hardest thing she had ever done, she had so many fears and worries about it. And yet, she did it anyway, because it was what was best for us. I am grateful that she reached out to my father, and because of that, I have a wonderful relationship with him, with my step-mom, and with my sisters.
I am grateful for the stories and letters she wrote to Maya, first in the mail, then on her blog, because they not only gave Maya a glimpse into the life of her grandmother, who she saw at best once a year due to mom living in Alaska and us in California, they also made me feel more connected as well.
I am grateful for our years of Sunday evening phone calls. For thinking before I called, “Gosh, I don’t know if I have anything to really say this week…” and yet finding that we would talk for 2 or 3 hours, every time.
I am grateful for the unconditional love and support that she never failed to give to us. For the wonderful example of how to live your beliefs and morals, how to be a caring, loving person, and how to let your children know that you are on their side.
I am grateful to have had such a wonderful mother. I’m grateful for every day of the life she had here. And I am grateful for the memories I cherish.
Have you ever seen something that made you realize that the world doesn’t always work the way that you think it does?Â Often it’s a matter of nature…an animal or a plant that is so different than what you might expect to see, that it makes you stop in your tracks and think.Â While in Hawaii, I was struck by this very strange looking tree…turns out it’s an Indian Banyan Tree, which originates in India.Â The branches of the Banyan tree fan out over a large canopy, much like an Oak tree.Â One problem with Oak trees is that when the branches grow long and cover a large space, they can lose strength and easily break.
The Banyan tree has developed in such a way that it has what are called ‘aerial roots’.Â I had never heard of aerial roots before, but they pretty much made me realize that I don’t really know the world as well as I thought I did.Â The Banyan produces roots, which are fairly thin and dangly, from its branches. They reach slowly down toward the ground, and if they find a hospitable environment, they take up there, dig in deep, strengthen the tree, and grow strong and solid. I didn’t know that trees could put down roots from the branch, and have them attach themselves into the ground.Â It’s incredible to look at, isn’t it?
The first time I saw a Banyan tree was the last time we were in Hawaii, in 2005.Â I noticed the aerial roots hanging down, but I thought they were some kind of moss or something.Â Having never been to the deep south, they looked like I imagined the Spanish Moss that I’ve read about so many times might look.Â Of course, they’re completely the wrong texture for that, even in the just dangly stage, but I didn’t really think that much about it then.Â Now, I think they’re amazing.
Simply amazing.Â And beautiful, too.
(photo found here)
Monday morning, and the vacation was, as most vacations are, all too brief.Â Now there’s laundry to be done, groceries to shop for, library books to return, and prescriptions to pick up. Back to the old grind, as they say.
But it was a great week.Â I would say that the high point of the week was Thursday.Â When we went kayaking on Tuesday, we mentioned to our guide that we really liked the snorkeling, and he suggested that we might enjoy the snorkeling at Shark’s Cove.Â So on Thursday, we rented a convertible and drove up to the North Shore of the Island, to Pupukea.Â Isn’t that fun to say? Pupukea?Â I know.Â So we drove up and got ourselves a refreshing shave ice (similar to a snow cone, but the ice is much finer, and the flavors more tropical, and I would say it’s better than either a snow cone or water ice), then rented our snorkeling gear and got in the water.Â It was so, so nice.Â We saw so many beautiful tropical fish, it made me want to come home and invest in a salt water tank (don’t worry, I’m over that now) so we could have a reminder of our wonderful day.Â Seeing a glimpse of a fish isn’t the same as swimming into the middle of a school of fish, which is what we did, and it was amazing.Â There were beautiful yellow and black striped fish, tiny shimmery tetra like fish, iridescent blue fish, and so many others.Â It was wonderful.Â The best part, though, was that we found a sea turtle, and swam along with it for awhile.Â They don’t swim so much as they glide through the water, and it was so peaceful and wonderful.Â Truly calming.Â We came out of that experience tired and I remember feeling stupidly happy, the kind of happy you feel when you have a big goofy smile on your face.Â And peaceful.Â Then we climbed back in the convertible, and went in search of some garlic shrimp. We found it, at Giovanni’s White Shrimp Truck, which I believe was featured in an episode of Lost, though then it was supposed to be in Australia, not Hawaii.Â Totally yummy, totally garlicky, really, really good.Â We gobbled that up, and then hopped back in the car for a scenic drive back to our hotel in Waikiki.
I remember once reading that if you need to calm yourself, if you’re feeling stressed or something (like when giving blood, or having your blood pressure taken or something), to think of something calming, perhaps a happy memory. Â My happy memory for a long time was a day many years ago when Maya and I found a jellyfish alive on the shore in San Francisco, and put it back in the ocean, rescuing it from dying a yucky death.Â I think it’s been replaced though, with our memory of swimming with turtles and driving around the island together.Â Really a great family day.Â Sigh.